Growing up with six siblings might have had its downsides, but not many. Between us, we all had different personalities and interests- some of us took to baking, others to surfing; some to beading (me), some to teasing sisters, to swimming, and more. My littlest sister took to drawing- as a kid she would spend hours drawing “babies” on college-lined paper, tiny circles that would cover the entire page. My siblings and I used to feed her cranberries just to see her adorable face pucker up, and we would fight over who got to hold her when we got home from school. Later on, when we were homeschooled, she and I would share a bunk-bed, build forts and annoy each other all day.
Later on in our childhood she became withdrawn; my dynamic little sister became a shadow of herself. After a suicide epidemic devastated our local Nantucket High School and shook our small island community, she graduated and moved to Boston to study her passion: animation. This new chapter offered so much promise, but despite our observations my sister suffered her schizoaffective disorder in silence.
In her second year at college, I got a call families dread- she had been hospitalized and was on suicide watch. Our family was devastated- my mother in particular was grieving for her daughter’s future. My little sister’s path was now drastically different; her road had become riddled with immense hardships, trapped inside her own mind.
What struck me the most from this period was that when sharing my sister’s story, I was met with similar narratives from everyone- friends, families and even strangers. Everyone knew and loved someone who struggled with mental illness – every single person. Yet no one spoke of it until prompted. Witnessing and beginning to learn about my sister’s struggle showed me what a luxury my daily routine was. It’s easy to take things for granted, from the little details- getting up in the morning and engaging with people around you, to the more conceptual aspects- energy, motivation, creativity and peace.
My sister has flourished despite her mental illness. Every day she fights for energy; she rejects societal norms; she empowers me to be stronger. Nevertheless, she has persisted. From creating a business with her artwork, working towards giving back to the mental health community, and living each day as a badass- my little sister is fierce and a one-of-a-kind.
I created the Fairwinds Floating Cameo Bangle as a tribute to my little sister, and to the fight against the stigma of mental illness. It is so important to me that we share this commonality; that we are all touched by mental illness, suicide and addiction- through our own struggles or of those around us.
Together we can break the stigma, and we will be stronger for it.